Rough tough rugby

Tuesday, May 2, 2006
Kevin Rudolphi, left, a fullback, tries to run through a hole as defender Alan Kloss, an outside center, marks him defensively. (Fred Lynch)

Cape Girardeau's Scorpions have a long tradition of smash-mouth sport in the River City.

Pads are for wimps. Real men were none, nor do they line up after every play. So say the Scorpions.

Don't know who the Scorpions are? They're Cape Girardeau's only rugby team, and they've been around since 1972. And while the football players get all the glory, the rugby players know their sport is older, tougher and faster.

The key word is tough, not big.

"One of the biggest myths is that you have to be a big ox to play the sport," says Joey Hann, captain of the Scorpions team, sponsored by Kohlfeld Distributing. "There are positions for larger guys, and there are positions that are built for speed. Pound for pound one of toughest guys we have is 175 pounds -- he's relentless Rugby is more about heart than about physical stature."

The 175-pound wonder is the Scorpions roughest character, but they're not a small team. There are several strategies to playing rugby, and not all of them involve knocking the crap out of your opponents. But that's what the Scorpions do.

"We've got a lot of good, hard hitters right now," says Hann.

And those hard-hitters are doing the job well. The Scorpions are a competitive team, and they commonly lay into teams from all across the Midwest.

From 2001 to 2004 they were champions of their state rugby division, and this season they were 4-0 in competitive play. The team has played others from around the world, and some players are good enough to play the circuit as all-stars in amateur rugby traveling clubs.

The club takes any person who wants to learn rugby, who already knows how to play and who just wants to get busted up and dirty. Some seasons there are 50 members on the team vying for starting sports, said Hann, and sometimes there are only enough players to fill the field of 15 with two or three reserves. Bad news if somebody gets hurt.

And rugby is an exhausting sport. The game runs for two 40-minute halves, literally runs. Breaks in the action are rare, more akin to soccer than football except for tackling and scoring.

"It's equally important to know how to run as it is to know how to tackle," says Hann.

The glory is very little, except for their own personal satisfaction and sense of fun. These players don't take the field for shiny bling, big cars and loose women. It's all about the game.

"Nobody's out here for a scholarship, nobody's out here for a paycheck, you've got to love the game to do it," Hann says.

And the door is always open for the next Scorpions star, or people who just want to watch the game and learn more. The Rugby dudes play during March, April and May every year, with home games at Arena Park.

Hann says anyone is welcome to join. If you want to play, all you need is cleats and a mouthguard.

The guys can show you a few things, and you'll be ready to scrum before you know it. If you don't know what "scrum" means, check out a Scorpions practice. For more information go to the club's Web site at www.showme.net/recreation/scorpions.

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